"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 32

    

     

    

    

Chapter 32: Understanding the Exile (2)

    

Chapter 32 Contents

32.1 Introduction – Recap

32.2 The Prophetic Context – through Ezekiel

32.3 The Miracle of the Return from Exile

32.4 A Quick Glance at Daniel

32.5 Final Conclusions

 

    

32.1 Introduction - Recap

 

Because of the magnitude of that which we call the Exile we have taken two chapters to cover the things we believe are pertinent to understanding it. In the previous chapter we noted the historical context, observing the main players in the forty year run up to the Exile – the kings and the prophet Jeremiah – and what went on at what time.

 

Jeremiah, we noted, was God's ‘man on the ground' there in Jerusalem , bringing His word into the lives of the last four kings of the southern kingdom. Through his prophecies we saw the warnings of what was coming and the reasons for what was coming. The reality was that no one in Jerusalem could say they had never been warned about it.

 

In this chapter we pick up on God's other main voice speaking into the time, Ezekiel, God's man on the ground with the exiles in Babylon, and then briefly a look at Daniel, God's man in the court in Babylon throughout the period of the Exile, leading on to the restoration. It is an amazing story so please persevere with us as we look at more of the prophecies now spoken by Ezekiel.

 

      

32.2 The Prophetic Context - through Ezekiel

  

Overview of Ezekiel's role & timeframe 

    

  •  While Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem throughout that period of the last five kings of the southern kingdom, Ezekiel appears to have been carried away to Babylon as we saw previously, in 597, but doesn't appear to have received his prophetic call until 593, (see Ezek 1:1,2) a mere 6 or 7 years before Jerusalem was destroyed (although he carried on prophesying until April 571 (Ezek 29:17).

 

  • There he brought his words to the exiles in Babylon and presumably those words were carried back to Jerusalem.
  • In chapters 2 to 24 he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem for the apostasy of the people (which we'll consider in detail shortly).

 

  • In January of 588 the Lord told him that Jerusalem was under siege (Ezek 24:1,2).
  • Thereafter he was instructed to prophesy against Ammon , Moab , Edom , Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt .
  • God's day of judgment was coming but not only on Jerusalem but also on the surrounding nations!
  • Eventually he was told that Jerusalem had fallen (Ezek 33:21)
  • In the chapters that follow, the prophetic word brought hope and more hope

    

God's words of judgment through Ezekiel (seen in Ch.4-24 - watch for reasons)

   

  • Chapters 1-4 of Ezekiel are really preparatory and gradually they move into the prophetic through action pictures which involve a siege (4:1-3) and a famine (4:16 and 5:16)
  • In Chapter 5 comes a warning that a third of the people will die by famine or plague, a third by sword, and a third will be scattered (5:12)
  • In Chapter 6 the pace and intensity picks up:

 

Ezek 6:1-7 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel ; prophesy against them and say: `O mountains of Israel , hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will slay your people in front of your idols. I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you live, the towns will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have made wiped out. Your people will fall slain among you, and you will know that I am the LORD.

  • Read it again and see the force of what is spoken against idol worship in the hills
  • The warning is repeated in v.11-14, the back end of the chapter

BUT –

 

Ezek 6:8-10 ` But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and nations. Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me--how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the LORD; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.

  • There will be those scattered to other lands
  • But they will KNOW what they have done and repent of it.

 

  • But in Chapter 7 it gets worse:

 

Ezek 7:1-4 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel : The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

  • If it wasn't clear enough before, it is now – the end of the land!!!
  • And so it continues on for the rest of the chapter getting worse and worse with more and more detail!

 

  • In Chapter 8 he is shown the idolatry that is actually being carried on in the Temple

 

  • In Chapter 9 he is shown the first picture of the moving glory of the Lord which indicates the presence of the Lord gradually moving out of the temple and then out of the city:


Ezek 9:4 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple.

  • This was repeated in 10:4 as if to emphasise it if you missed it the first time
  • It goes from the cherubim in the Holy of Holies to the door of the main Temple building

 

  • Further in chapter 9 there is a marking out of the faithful ones in Jerusalem and a warning that the rest will die by the sword.

 

  • In Chapter 10 he sees the same heavenly vision as chapter 1 but the glory now comes down (there seems a coming together of the glory in the Temple and the glory from above, v.18,19)
  • Thus we see the glory move a second time:

 

Ezek 10:18,19 Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground…. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.

  • The real cherubim in the vision carry the glory from the door of the main Temple building to the east gate of the Temple, probably in the outer courtyard area.

 

  • In Chapter 11 he sees 25 elders plotting evil and judgment is spoken over them and one dies
  • There follows (v.17-21) a word of hope for the future which we'll note below.
  • We also see the glory move a third time:

 

Ezek 11:23 The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it

  • The presence of God has left the city!!!! What a terrible picture for the faithful ones of Israel.

    

  • In Chapter 12 he is to perform another prophetic picture which he will explain:

 

Ezek 12:10,11 "Say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and the whole house of Israel who are there.' Say to them, `I am a sign to you.' "As I have done, so it will be done to them. They will go into exile as captives.

  • This about as clear a warning of the exile as you can get that goes beyond mere destruction

 

  • In Chapter 13 he prophesies against false prophets
  • In Chapter 14 he rebukes the elders who come to him and calls them to repentance
  • Chapter 15 brings a further warning of the desolation that is coming.
  • In Chapter 16 he reminds them of their history and their failures and idolatry which comes in great detail and speaks of a fresh covenant.
  • In Chapter 17 he presents the allegory of the eagles that spoke of Nebuchadnezzar coming again and again and the folly of the kings refusing to learn
  • Chapter 18 is all about principles of personal responsibility for sin and the Lord's preference for repentance rather than death (v.23,32)
  • Chapter 19 is a lament for the princes of Israel who will be carried away.
  • Chapter 20 indicates that it is in Aug 591. The elders come to him and he confronts them again with their past. As such it is probably the most detailed condemnation of Israel 's history and their failures and God's intent to purify them when He brings them back
  • In Chapter 21 he warns that a sword is coming soon, the king of Babylon guided by God to come.
  • In Chapter 22 it feels like it is coming to a climax as He speaks yet again of the idolatry and unjust bloodshed in Jerusalem and the judgment He is bringing on it.
  • Chapter 23 speaks of two ‘prostitutes', Samaria and Jerusalem in condemning their idolatry.
  • Chapter 24 starts with the revelation that Nebuchadnezzar has just laid siege to Jerusalem . It is 588BC.

      

God's words of hope through Ezekiel

    

In the midst of God's words of judgment, there were words of hope (again we itemise it for clarity):

 

Ezek 11:17-21   “This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

•  I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again .

•  "They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.

•  I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

•  Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

•  They will be my people, and I will be their God.

•  But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

  • The Lord reveals His long-term strategy – the Israel that will return will be free of idol worship and will hold fast to the Lord.

 

Ezek 20:34-38   I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered--with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt , so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel .

  • When he eventually goes to restore His people to the Land, it will only after there has been a purging so it will only be the repentant ones who will get back

 

Ezek 34:11,13   “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. …. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.”

  • Yet, the overall intent is clear: the Lord will return a remnant to the Land from their exile.

 

Ezek 36:24-29  "For

•  I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land .

•  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

•  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

•  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

•  You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

•  I will save you from all your uncleanness.

  • Yet again the promise of restoration is accompanied by the revelation of a cleaning and renewing that will go on in the hearts of His people.
  • The restored people will be a renewed people. Those who are not renewed will not be restored.

 

Ezek 37:12-14   Therefore prophesy and say to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

•  my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them;

•  I will bring you back to the land of Israel . Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.

•  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land . Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "

  • Where it looked like their destiny was death in a foreign land, in reality His intent is to a) renew them and then b) restore them to the Land.

 

Ezek 37:21-27 This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

•  I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel .

•  There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.

•  They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them.

•  They will be my people, and I will be their God.

•  `My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.

•  They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.

•  They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever , and David my servant will be their prince forever .

•  I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.

•  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

•  Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.' "

  • This has a feel to it that suggests this is not merely about coming back after exile.
  • It has a much longer feel to it, a larger feel to it NB. ‘Forever' - v.25,26,28
  • Is this the redeemed people of God, Jew AND Gentile with Jesus as their king?

 

     

32.3 The Miracle of the Return from Exile

 

Forty years after the destruction, various amazing things happened:

  

Cyrus acts

    

2 Chron 36:22,23    “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: `The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'”

  • This was repeated in Ezra 1:1-4 except the last part is extended:

 

Ezra 1:3,4    Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem .' "

  • Interestingly the first priority was to rebuild the Temple, the dwelling place of God, the place indicating the presence of God.

 

Ezra 1:64-66,70  The whole company numbered 42,360, besides their 7,337 menservants and maidservants; and they also had 200 men and women singers. They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys…… The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns

  

The Temple is Rebuilt

   

The reality was that there was really nothing left of Jerusalem in which to live.

Records suggest the work of rebuilding the temple

  • started on 537BC
  • (was then delayed)
  • resumed on Sept. 21, 520BC (Ezra 3:8) and
  • finished on Mar. 12, 516BC (Ezra 6:15)
  • i.e. approx three and a half years building.

    

Jerusalem is eventually Rebuilt

   

  • It was March-April, 445 BC before Nehemiah approached King Artaxerxes with plans to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem itself.
  • It appears it was completed by Oct 445 BC (Neh 6:15)
  • The record says it took 55 days to complete but Josephus states in Antiquities, that the rebuilding of the wall took two years and four months which may include ancillary works.   
  • The last clear dates in the Old Testament were Nehemiah's first term as governor (Neh 5:14) from Apr. 1, 433 BC, to Apr. 19, 432, a 12 year period before being recalled to court (Neh 13:6), after which he returned to Jerusalem (Neh 13:7) for a second term whose length cannot be determined.
  • Nevertheless it is clear that Israel had been returned to the Land, had rebuilt the temple and then later Jerusalem itself but were throughout that time settled in the Land. There they remained until we find them under Roman rule at the beginning of the New Testament.

 

     

32.4   A Quick Glance at Daniel

 

Daniel, we have observed above, was taken by Nebuchadnezzar's first attack on Jerusalem in 605BC

Daniel operated in the palace in Babylon, it would appear, through the reigns of:

  • Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1-4) – 605BC to 562BC
    • Evil-Merodach (not mentioned in Daniel but see 2King 25: 27/ Jer 52: 31, otherwise known as Amel-Marduk) – 562BC to 560BC
    • Neriglassar (also not mentioned in Daniel) – 560BC to 556BC
    • Labishi-Marduk (ditto) – 556
    • Nabonidus (ditto) – 556 to 539
  • Belshazzar (Dan 5 – co-regent with Nabonidus, part of time up to – 539BC
  • Darius the Mede (Dan 5 & 6) otherwise known as Cyrus (see footnote 6:28) – 539BC to 530BC

 

The book was probably started about 606BC and completed somewhere about 530 BC, some time after the capture of Babylon by Cyrus in 539. i.e. Daniel was in the palace (or its precincts) for some 65 years or so!

 

If we assume the book records his influence in the Babylonian and then Persian empires, this explains the mention of only Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar (who really only gets a death sentence) and Cyrus.

 

Chapters 1-4 record his influence on Nebuchadnezzar who ended up (probably) near the end of his reign worshipping the Lord after a seven month period of madness.

 

As a result of his time in the lion's den (Chapter 6) Daniel's influence on Cyrus was clearly very great with him issuing an edict to his kingdom to worship the Lord (see Dan 6:25-27)

 

Note: using the dates above, Cyrus took over in 539BC and the Temple rebuilding started in 537 i.e. 2 years later, during which Daniel was still a trusted courtier in the royal household. It may be quite reasonable to suggest that Daniel was the one having influence with Cyrus and opened the way up for the temple rebuilding to be decreed by Cyrus. Daniel would also have known of Isaiah's prophecies identifying the ‘Cyrus' years before, with such accurate prophecies that must be way beyond coincidence:

 

Isa 44:28   who says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem , "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid." '

…and….

 

Isa 45:13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty."

 

…and these things together may have been used to bring about that which was then recorded:

 

2 Chron 36:22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing….

  • The requirement was for the Temple to be rebuilt and the people to return!
  • Amazing!

 

    

32.5 Final Conclusions

 

In this somewhat prolonged study of the Exile and restoration of Israel we have noted:

 

1. The Facts of the Exile

 

  • The final exile came about after three invasions by Nebuchadnezzar, 605, 597 and 588/7, each time taking some exiles back with him to Babylon until finally destroying Jerusalem and clearing the land in 587BC.
  • It was eventually to terminate the southern kingdom.
  • It only came about after approx. forty years of Jeremiah's warnings.
  • It meant the land being virtually entirely cleared of people.

 

2. The Reasons for the Exile

 

  • These were spelled out by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
  • Ultimately it was long-term, entrenched apostasy – a turning away from God to idol worship and a decline in the general moral state of the nation so that corruption, injustice and violence prevailed – that refused to change despite the many words of God coming through His prophets.

 

3. The Outworking of the Exile

 

  • The renewal and restoration of a faithful remnant that would be brought back from exile was prophesied by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
  • This occurred after forty years when King Cyrus, possibly led to the Lord by Daniel, decreed that the people could return and rebuild the Temple.
  • Some forty two thousand people returned in the first group.
  • The Temple was completed almost exactly seventy years after it had been destroyed, as basically prophesied by Jeremiah.
  • Subsequently Jerusalem was rebuilt and reinhabited.

 

4. In General

 

We might also note in closing that the ‘mechanics' of the Exile involved

  • Two main prophets – warning, explaining and bringing hope – Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
  • Two initially ungodly kings – one bringing about the exile, the other bringing it to an end – Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.
  • One background prophet, presumably being used to open up Cyrus – Daniel.
  • God – who decreed it and who
    • Ensured His people were warned again and again with options to avoid it,
    • Encouraged a faithful remnant with hopes for the future,
    • Oversaw it brought it to completion.

 

As so often happens with the judgment of God, this whole things also reveals:

  • The folly and sin of mankind, again and again refusing to heed the calls of God.
  • The grace and patience of God who gave His people every opportunity to repent.
  • The perseverance and wisdom of God who, when His people failed to respond to Him, pressed on with the planned exile and restoration so that at the end a cleansed nation was the outcome, a nation into which eventually His Son was able to come, to reveal Him even more. and bring salvation to the world.
 
 

     

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